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The exo-β-N-acetylmuramidase NamZ from Bacillus subtilis is the founding member of a family of exo-lytic peptidoglycan hexosaminidases.Endo-β-N-acetylmuramidases, commonly known as lysozymes, are well-characterized antimicrobial enzymes that catalyze an endo-lytic cleavage of peptidoglycan; i.e., they hydrolyze the β-1,4-glycosidic bonds connecting N-acetylmuramic acid (MurNAc) and N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc). In contrast, little is known about exo-β-N-acetylmuramidases, which catalyze an exo-lytic cleavage of β-1,4-MurNAc entities from the non-reducing ends of peptidoglycan chains. Such an enzyme was identified earlier in the bacterium Bacillus subtilis, but the corresponding gene has remained unknown so far. We now report that ybbC of B. subtilis, renamed namZ, encodes the reported exo-β-N-acetylmuramidase. A ΔnamZ mutant accumulated specific cell wall fragments and showed growth defects under starvation conditions, indicating a role of NamZ in cell wall turnover and recycling. Recombinant NamZ protein specifically hydrolyzed the artificial substrate para-nitrophenyl β-MurNAc and the peptidoglycan-derived disaccharide MurNAc-β-1,4-GlcNAc. Together with the exo-β-N-acetylglucosaminidase NagZ and the exo-muramoyl-l-alanine amidase AmiE, NamZ degraded intact peptidoglycan by sequential hydrolysis from the non-reducing ends. A structure model of NamZ, built on the basis of two crystal structures of putative orthologs from Bacteroides fragilis, revealed a two-domain structure including a Rossmann-fold-like domain that constitutes a unique glycosidase fold. Thus, NamZ, a member of the DUF1343 protein family of unknown function, is now classified as the founding member of a new family of glycosidases (CAZy GH171; www.cazy.org/GH171.html). NamZ-like peptidoglycan hexosaminidases are mainly present in the phylum Bacteroidetes and less frequently found in individual genomes within Firmicutes (Bacilli, Clostridia), Actinobacteria, and γ-proteobacteria.
Photorhabdus luminescens lectin A (PllA) - a new probe for detecting α-galactoside-terminating glycoconjugates.Lectins play important roles in infections by pathogenic bacteria, for example, in host colonization, persistence and biofilm formation. The Gram-negative entomopathogenic bacterium Photorhabdus luminescens symbiotically lives in insect-infecting Heterorhabditis nematodes and kills the insect host upon invasion by the nematode. The P. luminescens genome harbors the gene plu2096 coding for a novel lectin that we named PllA. We analyzed the binding properties of purified PllA with a glycan array and a binding assay in solution. Both assays revealed a strict specificity of PllA for alpha-galactoside-terminating glycoconjugates. The crystal structures of apo PllA and complexes with three different ligands revealed the molecular basis for the strict specificity of this lectin. Furthermore, we found that a 90 degree twist in subunit orientation leads to a peculiar quaternary structure compared with that of its ortholog LecA from Pseudomonas aeruginosa. We also investigated the utility of PllA as a probe for detecting alpha-galactosides. The alpha-Gal epitope is present on wild-type pig cells and the main reason for hyperacute organ rejection in pig to primate xenotransplantation. We noted that PllA specifically recognizes this epitope on the glycan array and demonstrated that PllA can be used as a fluorescent probe to detect this epitope on primary porcine cells in vitro. In summary, our biochemical and structural analyses of the P. luminescens lectin PllA have disclosed the structural basis for PllAs high specificity for alpha-galactoside-containing ligands, and we show that PllA can be used to visualize alpha-Gal epitope on porcine tissues.